010-151 Supporting Cisco Datacenter Networking Devices (DCTECH)

Which method is a TCP/IP-based protocol for establishing and managing connections between IPbased
storage devices, hosts, and clients?


Answer: C


Which method does FCIP use to enable connectivity of geographically distributed Fibre Channel
SANs over IP?

A. routing
B. tunneling
C. handshaking
D. transporting

Answer: B


Which important feature on the front end is provided to the clients by multiple servers that access
the same storage devices across the SAN?

A. recovery
B. redundancy
C. resiliency
D. security
E. storage

Answer: B


The Ethernet specification details several different fiber optic media types. What is the wire
transmission speed for 100BASE-FX Ethernet?

A. 10 Mb/s
B. 100 Mb/s
C. 1000 Mb/s
D. 10000 Mb/s

Answer: B


Which fiber optic cable type is used most often with a Subscriber connector?

A. dual-mode
B. single-mode
C. straight-mode
D. multi-mode
E. subscriber-mode

Answer: B




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CAS-002 CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP)

An attacker attempts to create a DoS event against the VoIP system of a company. The attacker uses a tool to flood the network with a large number of SIP INVITE traffic. Which of the following would be LEAST likely to thwart such an attack?

A. Install IDS/IPS systems on the network
B. Force all SIP communication to be encrypted
C. Create separate VLANs for voice and data traffic
D. Implement QoS parameters on the switches

Answer: D

Joe, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), was an Information security professor and a Subject Matter Expert for over 20 years. He has designed a network defense method which he says is significantly better than prominent international standards. He has recommended that the company use his cryptographic method. Which of the following methodologies should be adopted?

A. The company should develop an in-house solution and keep the algorithm a secret.
B. The company should use the CEO’s encryption scheme.
C. The company should use a mixture of both systems to meet minimum standards.
D. The company should use the method recommended by other respected information security organizations.

Answer: D

A small company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has asked its Chief Security Officer (CSO) to improve the company’s security posture quickly with regard to targeted attacks. Which of the following should the CSO conduct FIRST?

A. Survey threat feeds from services inside the same industry.
B. Purchase multiple threat feeds to ensure diversity and implement blocks for malicious traffic.
C. Conduct an internal audit against industry best practices to perform a qualitative analysis.
D. Deploy a UTM solution that receives frequent updates from a trusted industry vendor.

Answer: A

An administrator wants to enable policy based flexible mandatory access controls on an open source OS to prevent abnormal application modifications or executions. Which of the following would BEST accomplish this?

A. Access control lists
B. SELinux
C. IPtables firewall

Answer: B

Company XYZ has purchased and is now deploying a new HTML5 application. The company wants to hire a penetration tester to evaluate the security of the client and server components of the proprietary web application before launch. Which of the following is the penetration tester MOST likely to use while performing black box testing of the security of the company’s purchased application? (Select TWO).

A. Code review
B. Sandbox
C. Local proxy
D. Fuzzer
E. Port scanner

Answer: C,D

A developer is determining the best way to improve security within the code being developed. The developer is focusing on input fields where customers enter their credit card details. Which of the following techniques, if implemented in the code, would be the MOST effective in protecting the fields from malformed input?

A. Client side input validation
B. Stored procedure
C. Encrypting credit card details
D. Regular expression matching

Answer: D


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Looking back 30 years as a sysadmin

The profession — and everything it involves — has changed dramatically, but has been (and still is) a fun ride.

Looking back after spending more than 30 years as a Unix systems administrator, I have to say that’s it’s been quite a ride.

It certainly wasn’t 30+ years of doing the same thing. Instead, the technology and the job have gone through incredible changes along the way. There were dramatic improvements in the hardware that I managed and always plenty of new tools to learn and use.

Over the years, I went from reveling in how much work I could get done on the command line to grappling with some big issues — troubleshooting some very complicated problems and figuring out how to best protect my employers’ information assets. Along the way, I worked with some amazing individuals, got laid off (once), and learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work both from a technical and a career perspective.

Here are my reflections on the changes I’ve seen and those still to come.

How the technology has changed

In the earliest part of my career, I actually used keypunch machines — first, when processing payrolls for client companies while working for a large New York City bank (and putting myself through college) and second, when taking my first programming class. At the bank, I built punch card “programs” to make it easier for the keypunch operators to jump to the next field for the data they were entering. At the college, the class was an introductory programming class based on Fortran. Yes, Fortran. The following semester, the keypunch machines were no more and big clunky terminals took their place.

Keypunch operators
In college I had learned languages like Fortran, LISP, ALGOL, and Pascal. And, in one class, I built a simple operating system on a PDP system using assembly language. I remember “reading” the lights on the front of the system and how exciting it was when the attached printer spit out a sheet of paper as instructed. I’ve used many other languages since — like C and some Java, but I’ve mostly worked in scripting languages like sh, csh, bash, ksh, Python, and Perl. One of the most surprising things is how many languages have been introduced since I started in the field. The number of languages available seems to have increased maybe 20-30 times. This list from 2013 is probably no longer up-to-date: 256 Programming Languages

I remember in the early ’80s having to know the topology of hard drives in order to add them to my systems. Today, the systems are able to identify peripherals with very little work on my part. The number of cylinders, heads, and sectors … I had to describe the disk in these units for the system I was working on to be able to use the drive.
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From the early ’90s, I still have somewhere a 300 MB (yes, that’s megabytes) disk that’s roughly the size of a shoe box and sometimes stare at my USB (“thumb”) drives, knowing that some hold as much as a terabyte. What an incredible comparison! If this trend continues, we’ll soon find that dropping a storage device on the floor will mean we’re no longer going to be able to find it.

I also remember backing up my servers using a reel-to-reel tape drive. The tapes were huge and they didn’t hold all that much data. Some of my file systems required 3-4 of them. Today, we use robotic tape drives and tools that automate the backups and keep track of what files went to what tapes so that you can restore files from various backup tapes with ease. And some of the backup technology today uses clever “deduplication” technology to reduce the size of data dumps by avoiding storing duplicate data, often reducing the size of backups to a small fraction of their original size.

robotic tape library
Of course, almost nothing has changed the field in which I’ve spent the last 30+ years as much as the Internet and the web have. When I worked for the federal courts, the district courts were connecting to systems in Washington, DC using a service called “Tymnet” which used packet switching technology. My project would not only put “minicomputers” (systems about the size of a college dorm refrigerator) into the courthouses, but make it so that all activity no longer had to push bits to Washington DC and back.

The growth of the Internet made connecting to arbitrary systems around the globe not only possible but common. And the introduction of the web (nee the “world wide web”) meant that I could find answers to many of my technical questions without even having to pull a book off the shelf. Today I often find myself wondering how I ever found answers to my technical questions before Google and similar web searching tools made their appearance.

How the jobs have changed
In general, the networks we manage are larger and more diverse. We won’t see the AppleTalk network segments that I remember from the ’80s doing their own thing, but the systems we run on our desktops and support in our data centers can be surprisingly diverse. More of the work we do is centrally managed through network services like NFS, NIS, DNS, etc.

Virtualization has become a major factor in our data centers. Many of our servers are now just segments of resources on larger servers, able to be shrunk and grown as needed to meet our demands, and easily migrated to alternate data centers as needed. On top of that, what now seems the ultimate virtualization — moving systems and even complete data centers into the cloud — dramatically changes what we as sysadmins are able to control and what we are responsible for.

Most of us rely on fairly versatile ticketing systems to keep track of all the problems that we are addressing and tasks waiting to be completed. We might be “just” doing systems administration, but that role has moved heavily into managing security, controlling access to a wide range of resources, analyzing network traffic, scrutinizing log files, and fixing the chinks on our cyber armor.

In the early part of my career (maybe the first ten years or so), security was fairly lax. Maybe we forced our users to change their passwords every year. I remember once writing a program to pseudorandomly generate passwords by clumping two short words together, but it was nothing like what I do today. Security in those days was not a hot item and most of the people that I worked with were far more cavalier than I. When one of our speakers at a Sun User Group conference that I helped organize in the 1990s suggested that we all think like attackers, the thought seemed quite revolutionary.

This aspect of being a sysadmin has undergone more change than likely any other. Today, you’re irresponsible if you’re not behaving in a manner that might have seemed paranoid 20 years ago. The tools we use and the measures we go to in order to secure our systems are orders of magnitude beyond anything we would have considered back then. Passwords are longer and the systems we manage allow us to configure complexity measures. The suggested password length has gone from 7-8 characters to 12-14 and the expiration times have gone from once a year to once every three or four months for most of us.

In addition, the tools that we use have become dramatically more sophisticated. To some extent, we do become the attackers, using vulnerability testers like Nessus and Nexpose that discover the holes in our systems (hopefully before our attackers do) and sometimes even exploit them. We’re also on the lookout with intrusion detection systems watching for signs of malicious activity and data loss prevention tools trying to keep our organizational “jewels” from leaking out the back door. And following a briefing with Palo Alto just yesterday, I don’t imagine that I’ll ever think of firewalls in the same old way again. They’re moving from the perimeter of our organizations into the middle of everything we do. They’re smarter, faster, and they’re focused on what’s happening, not just on what doors (i.e., ports) the traffic is moving through.

How our communities have changed
In 1980, the Apple II computer that sat on a desk in the corner of my dining room had my neighbors thinking that I was a complete freak. To hear them talk, you’d think I had a centrifuge on my kitchen counter. And it was not because the computer was in the dining room or because it was an Apple. It was a computer and why I would have one sitting in my house had them looking at me really funny. Yet it wasn’t that many years before anyone without a home computer was considered weird. And these days, we’re all pretty much using wireless networks and probably everyone in the household has their own computer. Big change — even without mentioning all the other electronics that are practically mandated by our modern life styles.
Career choices

The downside: Compared to many IT jobs, there’s not much climbing up the corporate ladder for sysadmins. As a systems administrator, you’ll seldom be in the spotlight. You can easily still be a “bottom rung” (nobody reporting to you) worker after 30 years in the field. It’s also hard sometimes to get a sense of value. You generally get noticed least when everything is running smoothly. Unless you resolve Big Problems, most of the people you support won’t think about you very often. Maybe not even on Sysadmin Day.

Systems administrators are rarely customer-facing unless you count as customers the staff that use the systems that you keep humming along. And, even then, the big changes that you make are likely done after hours when everyone else is off duty and having a relaxing weekend or enjoying happy hour at the local pub. Do your job really well and no one will remember you’re there.

The upside: The work is seldom boring and there’s always something new to learn — something breaking, some new coming through the door. Even after 30+ years, the work is anything but monotonous. And the job pays reasonably well. There’s also a lot of variability in what you do and what you specialize in. You might automate all of your tasks or manage a huge data center, but there will always be something that challenges you and problems that need your attention.

Some of the significant trade-offs involve the kind of organization you work for. I worked in one company with only three employees and two independent contractors and other organizations with staffs of tens of thousands. The benefit of the smaller staff positions was getting to touch nearly everything and being involved in almost every aspect of the work. The big ones offered more chance of moving around and changing my organizational role fairly dramatically.

How much variability there is in your work depends on many factors, but I generally prefer having enough flexibility that I’m always doing something that I do easily and well and something else that is new and exciting. The mix keeps me feeling that I’m earning my keep and equipping myself for future challenges and opportunities.

The best jobs

For me, the best jobs that I’ve had involved my feeling that what I did was important. My stint working in the federal government was one of those because I knew that the analysts that I was supporting were helping to ensure that good decisions were being made on the national level. It was rewarding just to be a part of that.

At another (Johns Hopkins University), I managed the systems and the network for one department (Physics and Astronomy). The big plus was that I worked with some of the most brilliant people I’d ever have hoped to know — some trying to map the cosmos and other peering into the nature of the tiniest subatomic particles — and the students who helped out from time to time were generally amazingly competent grad students. Plus the campus was lovely, the commute reasonable, and the benefits (like being able to take free classes) pretty cool.

I also enjoyed being something of a jack of all computer trades at Web Publishing (part of IDG) where I managed the network, the systems, the servers, the backups, the web site, and eventually acquired a very capable assistant who made the job even that much more enjoyable. And we were on the forefront of online-only publications like SunWorld and JavaWorld that provided excellent information and advice to the growing communities that used this technology.

And last, but not least, working for a couple E*Trade subsidiaries in a similar “support everything” sysadmin role. Bright creative people are almost always wonderful to work with. We worked off the Embarcadero in San Francisco and managed to have some fun together even when we were working. And, hey, taking the ferry to work was the best commute imaginable!

Some of the positions that I’ve held over the years involved having the best possible coworkers — people who were as committed as I was, who both learned from me and taught me more than I can ever thank them for. Others involved the kind of office politics that make it hard to remember that we’re supposed to be working for the same goal — to help our organizations be successful — not fighting for a position under the lime light.

you’re in a good place.
Money isn’t everything. Even living on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay (which I did for several years) would be Heaven for some and Hell for others. Take the time to really nail down what matters to you. Is it visibility? Recognition? A sense of accomplishment? A big salary? Flexible hours? A voice in how things are done? A stake (and a say) in the outcome of your projects?

Whatever you do, don’t stop learning. Computer skills get old fast and that isn’t going to change any time soon. Spend some time every day learning something new and get your hands on some tools that might lead to the next phase in your career. Check job postings from time to time even if you have no plans to change jobs — just to keep aware of what skills are in high demand.

And put on your seatbelt. You probably can’t begin to imagine how the field is going to look in another 30 years!


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How important is CompTIA Certification

The need to advance or improve one’s credentials has become an import factor in this growing world. To beat the competition one should do the certifications and be a step ahead from others. There are many certifications, based on the expertise you have in, you can choose the one most relevant. Out of many one is CompTIA, doing which you not only gets the recognition but also the growth you would want. CompTIA is one of the most valued certifications as it covers a variety of fields like computer networking, IT security, Linux programming etc.

One way to be ahead of others, in a growing world of competitive job market the need to advance or improve one’s credentials cannot be ignored. For the beginners of the IT field CompTIA A+ is the most recommended of all as it makes you perfect as a computer technician. Topics covered under A+ are as installation, preventative maintenance, networking, security and troubleshooting. The exam is internationally accepted and relevant, also it is vendor neutral. Many employers see it as the proof of your ability to work with computers. No wonder, experts call A+ certification as a step in the right direction to more advanced CompTIA certification.

Once you are done with CompTIA A+ certification, you would look out for the next level i.e. CompTIA Network+ which is even more important than the CompTIA A+ certification. This certification makes you efficient in running, maintaining, troubleshooting, installing, and configuring computer network infrastructures. Companies which have large number of computer networks, connecting many employees, this certification is for them. There is high demand for IT networking professionals, so getting your CompTIA Network+ certification is a good next step after you complete your A+ certification.

CompTIA A+ is the basic of all the certifications provided by CompTIA. Another important CompTIA certification is CompTIA Network+. This certification tests your proficiency in maintaining, running, troubleshooting, installing, and configuring computer network infrastructures. This is majorly in need in companies where hundreds of employees get connected to the network. After you complete your A+ certification, it’s always suggested to get CompTIA network+ certification too as it is in huge demand

There are many more certification offered by CompTIA, based on your interest and passion, you can choose the one which is more relevant for your career growth.



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CompTIA Server+ Certification Training 2015

CompTIA’s Server+ 2015 is a vendor-neutral certification that deals with every aspect of the “care and feeding” of server computers. While nearly any computer can be used as a server in a small networking environment, many organizations require dedicated network servers built to high performance specifications. These powerful machines are called upon to handle hundreds (if not thousands) of user accounts, and all of the network activity and requests generated by these users. Additionally, there’s a variety of specialized servers (e.g. database servers, file and print servers, web servers, etc.) that can be deployed to perform critical roles in organizations.

The Server+ cert is aimed at technicians (ideally with a CompTIA A+ cert) who have 18 to 24 months of professional experience working with server hardware and software. The Server+ cert was developed in consultation with several industry partners, and is recommended or required for server technicians who work for Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Lenovo and Xerox. First released in 2001, the Server+ exam was updated in 2005, and again in 2009.

Server+ training

There are a number of different training options available for CompTIA’s Server+ 2015. For students on a budget, the most affordable option involves the use of printed self-study manuals. These self-paced books are a good option for candidates who have access to a test lab outfitted with computer server hardware and software, and who feel confident in their ability to teach themselves material from texts. Self-study manuals can also give candidates the most flexibility when scheduling training sessions for themselves.

Server+ self-study manuals are available from several vendors. Students should shop online in order to find the best pricing on these materials.

Candidates who prefer more dynamic training should look at self-paced video courseware. This form of training uses video lessons on optical disks, or may be offered through an online streaming video subscription service. Some of the vendors who create training manuals also create video courseware, and will often bundle the two products together. Self-paced video courseware can be more engaging than printed materials alone, while still offering the same flexibility when it comes to scheduling lessons.

Instructor-led training for Server+ is the most expensive option available, but offers the most beneficial learning experience to students who need interaction with a live instructor in order to learn new material. Instructor-led training can be purchased as virtual classroom courses delivered over the Internet, or traditional classroom courses held at a technical school.

Online courses
Virtual classroom courses use special client software or a web browser plug-in to simultaneously connect several students to an online classroom, which is managed by a live instructor. Virtual classroom courses are a good option for students who live a great distance from a technical school, or who have any conditions that make it difficult for them to travel to a physical classroom. These classes take place in real-time, so candidates must be able to work them into their existing schedules.
Traditional classroom

Finally, there are traditional classroom courses. For some, this training option offers the best learning experience: a live instructor, other students to collaborate with, and (by most schools) access to all of the relevant hardware and software labs necessary to master Server+ course content.

Here are the most common subjects a Server+ student can expect to encounter, no matter which training option they select:

Identifying and configuring server hardware components
Installing and configuring a network operating system
Server security fundamentals
Server-based storage technologies
Disaster recovery and contingency planning
Server troubleshooting tools and techniques

Server+ certification exam
There are no prerequisites for taking the Server+ exam, although CompTIA recommends that candidates should have their A+ certification, and somewhere between 18 and 24 months experience working with server computer hardware and software. The Server+ exam can be booked and taken at any authorized CompTIA exam center. As of this writing, the current Server+ exam code is SK0-003. The exam is available in English, Chinese, German and Japanese.

The Server+ exam is made up of 100 multiple-choice questions. Candidates have 90 minutes to complete the exam. The passing score for the exam is 750 on a scale of 100-900, and candidates are informed immediately upon exam completion if they have passed or not.

Here’s a list of the Server+ exam knowledge domains, with an estimate of how much exam content is dedicated to each:

System Hardware (21%)
Software (19%)
Storage (14%)
IT Environment (11%)
Disaster Recovery (11%)
Troubleshooting (24%)

Server+ in the workplace
The Server+ cert is valid for three years once it has been awarded by CompTIA. Candidates can renew the Server+ by earning a set total of CompTIA Continuing Education Units (CEUs) during the three-year certified period. CompTIA CEUs are attained by earning additional CompTIA certs, or can be gained by participating in certain approved industry activities. For more information about the CompTIA Continuing Education Program, visit the CompTIA Certification website.

If the Server+ is allowed to expire, the exam must be passed again in order to re-certify.

Some of the job roles associated with the Server+ certification include the following:
Authorized Server Technician
Server Sales Specialist
Network Server Support Specialist
Application Server Specialist
Web Server Specialist

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What to expect at Microsoft’s big hardware event on October 6th

Expect Surface tablets, Lumia smartphones, and maybe more at a rare Microsoft hardware event.

You don’t usually see “Microsoft” with “hardware event,” unless they are a guest, but Microsoft will be holding just that, a hardware event, on October 6 in New York City. The company sent out invitations on Monday morning.

Of course, Microsoft did not say what hardware would be on display, but it’s fairly easy to guess. The most obvious choice is Surface 4, unless they change the name. The Surface 3 models are now more than a year old, ancient in hardware terms.

It really is time for a Surface update. Intel has released the Skylake processor, and Microsoft now has Windows 10. Plus, Apple has its new iPad Pro, Lenovo has a 12-inch tablet, and Dell has one coming in the next few months.

Then there’s the Lumia business. Microsoft is sticking with it for now despite the fact that the Nokia acquisition has cost the company billions. The rumor is that two new flagship devices will be introduced: a 5.2-inch Lumia 950 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor and 1080p display, and the 5.7-inch QHD Lumia 950 XL with the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.

The final piece of hardware rumored for the event is an update to Microsoft’s wearable, the Microsoft Band. It has been almost a year since its release, and at the time, it was viewed as a 1.0 product. In other words, it needed work. There isn’t much floating around on the new Band, but it has nowhere to go but up.

On an unrelated note, you may have heard rumors last week that Microsoft was looking to buy a piece, or maybe all, of AMD. On the surface that seems ridiculous, but AMD is the chip supplier for the Xbox One and AMD is teetering on the brink of oblivion with plunging sales and continued losses.

Well, Citi’s semiconductor analyst Chris Danely threw some cold water on that idea, saying “we seriously doubt it” and noting that Microsoft has a close partnership with AMD’s rival Intel, among other reasons. He also noted that AMD has a cross-licensing patent agreement with Intel and any company buying AMD would have to renegotiate that deal, which would be awkward.

Danely said it might be possible that Microsoft acquires AMD’s semi-custom processor businesses, although that too seems unlikely. The custom semi business not only makes the Xbox One’s processor, it also makes the processor for the Sony PlayStation 4, and Sony would not sit quietly by and let that happen.

AMD is in rough shape, no question about it, and these rumors are constant. I’d say take them with a grain of salt, but really, you shouldn’t take them at all when it comes to Microsoft. At best, Microsoft can throw them a financial lifeline like it did with Apple in 1997, but that’s as far as it will go.



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Don’t look now, but the future is here!

We didn’t get the future that was predicted. We got a much better one.

In the first half of the 20th Century, a wide range of futurists, science fiction writers and others predicted what life would be like in the Year 2000 and beyond. Many of those concepts made such an impact that they left an indelible mark on the public’s imagination.

In fact, many people assume that we’re still slowly progressing toward that future. But I’m here to tell you that the real future has already arrived. More than that, the predicted future is boring and inferior to our amazing reality.

In the future-obsessed 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, futurists commonly believed that robotic pets would become normal. A few prototypes were even mocked up and displayed at World’s Fairs. One robot dog called Philidog was created in 1928. The most famous was Sparko, a robotic dog created in 1940.

They were actually mechanical contraptions that responded in limited ways to various inputs. They achieved slow, clumsy movement with internal gears and wires. Futurists no doubt assumed that computers would eventually be involved, and that mechanical dogs would evolve into robot dogs.

But no futurist could have predicted the massive computer power controlling today’s home robot pets. The most recent example is the BB-8.
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Unveiled last week by Sphero, the $150 BB-8 is a pet robot modeled after a droid in the upcoming Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, which opens in December.

Sphero worked with Disney on the design of the robot featured in the movie, then got the rights to make a branded toy pet based on the movie character.

The BB-8 has a magnetically attached head. (Sphero’s marketing material says the head is attached not with magnets but with “the force” — or a “pseudo-inverted pendulum mechanism.”) As the ball-shaped body rolls along, the head stays generally on top of the BB-8 while at the same time appearing to look around nervously and curiously.

The BB-8 rolls around on its own and can be remote-controlled or run through user-determined programs. It even responds to voice commands. (Hilariously, it runs away in a panic when you say, “It’s a trap!”)

Sphero’s droid is also capable of simulated “holographic communication,” which you can see as an augmented reality feature via your phone’s camera and

The “brains” of the BB-8 is your Android or iOS smartphone running the BB-8 app, which will no doubt gain new powers and abilities with each new update. The processing power for the BB-8 (your phone) vastly exceeds anything imaginable until recently.

In comparison, the mid-century futurists could not have predicted or imagined even the IBM Deep Blue supercomputer that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Deep Blue was capable of 11.38 GFLOPS (a GFLOP is 1 billion floating point operations per second), which is puny compared to the 115.2 GFLOPS that the iPhone 6’s A8 SoC delivers.

So when your BB-8 is rolling around amusing the family, it’s being powered by the equivalent of more than 10 IBM supercomputers of the late 1990s.

So yeah, we have the predicted robot pets. And they’re probably way more advanced than the futurists predicted.

Jet packs

Futurists also envisioned jet packs — apparently believing that lashing a high-powered engine to your back would be a viable form of transportation. The jet pack idea was so compelling, in fact, that it was brought to fruition decades ago. The jet packs that, say, Nick Macomber flies in demonstrations are essentially perfected versions of the concept from the 1960s and ’70s.

The jet packs based on the decades-old predictions keep you in the air for 30 seconds or so. They’re also dangerous. The new version of the old jet pack vision is off-limits to the public.

Compare that with the much-better jet-pack-like concepts that are a reality, and are available to anyone who has the money and courage to use them. For example, check out this video of Yves Rossy and Vince Reffet, who fly jetpacks combined with hard-wing wingsuits to fly like Superman.

And next year, if you’ve got $150,000 to spend, you’ll be able to buy the world’s first commercially available jet pack, the Martin Jetpack.
Flying cars

Dozens of actual flying car products have hit the market, or will soon. Most of these are more accurately described as “roadable aircraft,” because they’re basically airplanes that have fold-up wings and can be driven on roads.

The creation of flying cars hasn’t solved the problem of where you can fly them. Pilot’s licenses and advanced training are required. Airspace, weather, obstacle avoidance and all the standard factors involved in flying planes apply. So the long-predicted dream of escaping traffic jams by taking off from the freeway and soaring into the sky can’t happen because it’s both dangerous and illegal. So most people who could own roadable aircraft don’t. These vehicles are inferior airplanes and inferior cars. It’s much better, it turns out, to buy a real car plus a real airplane.

But one of the core predicted attributes of yesterday’s flying car of the future was the ability to fly to places where there’s no airport or runway. And that vision is quickly becoming a reality.

Two companies are working on vertical-takeoff airplanes for the consumer market. One is the TF-X from Terrafugia. The other is the TriFan 600 from XTI.

These airplanes will both let you fly as you would in an airplane and land in your front yard (regulations permitting) — or on a helicopter pad on top of a building in a major city.

Food in pill form

Another favorite idea of the 20th Century futurists was technology that would free us from the problems and hassles of eating. The concept was that all the nutrition you might ever need could be delivered in capsules, thus relieving us of the need to expend time and energy on shopping, cooking and cleaning up.

A Silicon Valley venture-backed startup called Soylent is selling that same vision in powder and liquid form. It explicitly touts the benefit of saving time. And it’s enhancing that vision by promoting the environmental friendliness and low cost of its product (you can survive on Soylent for about $70 per month).

But we have something now that’s far better than food pills or even Soylent: We have real food that’s really good. A ’50s-era futurist wouldn’t have been able to imagine the quality and variety of food we have today. (Turns out people enjoy eating. Go figure.)

The reality is that much of our world today meets or exceeds the expectations of yesterday’s futurists.

We’re growing food in space, developing drone air-traffic control systems (all computer-automated, of course), developing advanced kitchen computers, mass-producing robot vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers, and sending robots to preschool to learn the way babies do.

No, we don’t have moon colonies. But we do have robots on Mars. We’re landing on asteroids. And we’re taking close-ups of Pluto.

I’m not sure exactly when the future happened, but it did. So I’m going to say it: The future is here. And it’s vastly better and more exciting than anything anyone predicted.


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Review: Office 2016 for Mac offers a new interface and better features

Mac users who’ve been waiting for Microsoft to update Office can take heart: The new version is finally here and it’s worth the wait.

Mac users of Office who have felt left out in the cold by Microsoft (because the last version, Office 2011 for Mac, was released in October 2010) now have reason to be pleased: The final version of Office 2016 for Mac brings the suite out of the dark ages and into the modern world.
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Hints of what the new Office would offer have been out for quite a while, notably the preview of Outlook, introduced in October 2014. But Mac owners had to wait until early July for the final release of the full suite, including the core applications Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

It was well worth the wait. Office 2016 for Mac sports a far better interface than Office 2011, integrates well with Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage and dramatically improves Outlook.

(Note: Mac for Office 2016 requires Yosemite OS X or better. It’s currently only available as part of a subscription to Office 365, which allows you to install Office on multiple devices. It will sell as a standalone Mac product later this month.)

Spanking new interface
The moment you run any Office application, you know you’ve left the aging Office 2011 behind. It’s less cluttered, cleaner and sleeker-looking, more logically organized, more colorful and simpler to use. That’s largely in part because the Ribbon has been redone, and now looks and works as it does in the Windows version of Office.

The Ribbon is far more prominent and now sits close to the top of the screen rather than (as before) beneath a long row of icons for doing things such as opening and closing files, printing and so on. The usual Mac menu that sits atop Mac applications is hidden as well, although you can reveal it by moving your cursor to the top of the screen. It’s a clever way to bridge the worlds of

Office and Mac OS X.
Not everyone is a Ribbon fan, though, and those who wish it were gone, or just want to give themselves a little more screen real estate, can hide it by clicking a small up arrow at the Ribbon’s far right. The Ribbon goes away and the arrow turns to face downwards. Click the arrow to make the Ribbon come back.

Not only has the Ribbon been moved but it’s been reorganized, which is all to the good. For example, Word’s confusing Document Elements tab is gone; most of what was there can now be found in the more logically-named Insert tab. So now, you use the Insert tab when you want to insert anything, whether it be art, a table, header, link and so on. In Office 2011 you had to go on a treasure hunt through many different tabs to find all that. You’ll find similar reorganizations throughout all of Office.

For me, this reorganized Ribbon has made Office more usable and far more pleasurable to use than the previous version. Also, I use the Windows version of Office, and because the Mac version now closely mirrors it, I found switching between Office on Windows and Office on the Mac to be largely seamless.

Standardized look and feel
In Office 2016, Microsoft is bringing a common look and feel to the suite across all platforms, which is why this Mac version looks much like the recently released Windows-based Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview. However, there are still some differences between the Mac version and the Windows Office preview. As with the Windows 2016 preview, on the Mac the applications are color-coded: Blue for Word, green for Excel and red for PowerPoint.

Also missing in the Mac version is one of the more useful features of the Windows version: A box on the far right of the ribbon with the text, “Tell me what you want to do.” Type in a task, and you get walked through doing it via options and menus. I found that exceptionally useful, and hope that Microsoft eventually introduces it in the final, shipping version of Office 2016 for the Mac.

Another difference: The Ribbon doesn’t have the File tab. In the Windows version of Office, when you click the File tab, you’re sent to what Microsoft calls Backstage, for doing things such as opening a file, viewing cloud-based services associated with your accounts and so on. That’s missing in the Mac version.

You can do some of what Backstage offers in the Mac version — for example, you can open files by either clicking on a folder icon just above the Ribbon on the left-hand side of the screen or by pressing the Command-O keyboard combination. But that still won’t offer other Backstage capabilities, such as controlling what changes people can make to a document. In the Mac version, you do that in the Review tab.

And I couldn’t locate two other features of Backstage anywhere in the Mac version of Office: Checking a document to see whether it contains hidden personal information and managing previous versions of a file. It may be that they’re hidden so deeply I couldn’t find them. But it’s a shortcoming of the Mac version of Office, even if it’s only a minor one.

Integration with OneDrive

Microsoft has been integrating its cloud-based service OneDrive into both Windows and Office, and so, as you would expect, access to OneDrive is built right into Office 16 for the Mac. You have a choice of opening or saving files either to the cloud-based OneDrive or on your Mac’s hard disk.

It took me a little while to get used to the somewhat confusing OneDrive interface. When you choose File / Open or press Command-O, you see a screen that is clearly designed to be like every other Office screen, with the same colors, size of icons and so on. You then have the choice of opening a file on OneDrive or on your local Mac.

If you choose to open a OneDrive file, you get the same Office-like interface. However, if you choose a Mac-based file, you’re switched to the Mac’s Finder interface and have to use it navigate to files stored on your local version of OneDrive.

Using two different interfaces to open files is jarring at first and takes getting used to. However, after a few times I got used to dealing with it. You likely will as well.

Word 2016

As with the other Office applications, the main thing that’s new about Word is the interface. But there are other changes as well.

There is now a somewhat awkward collaboration feature that lets two people work simultaneously in the same document. In theory it sounds nice; in practice, I wasn’t impressed. You don’t see the changes your collaborator makes until she saves the document, and she won’t see your changes until you save it. That’s not exactly real-time collaboration. Nice try, but I won’t be using the feature any time soon — Google Docs is far superior in this area, because it uses true real-time collaboration.

word mac

Word and the other Office applications get the full-blown ribbon treatment in Office 16 for Mac.

On the plus side, there’s a new Styles pane that lets you apply pre-set styles to text and paragraphs. It’s easy to overlook, because it’s available only on the Home tab. To use it, go to the Home tab and click the Styles Pane icon on the upper right of the screen — and the pane appears. Click the icon again to make it go away.

Word 2016 also adds another useful new pane, the Navigation pane, which lets you navigate through a document via search results, headings and page thumbnails. You can also navigate by the kinds of changes you’ve made to the document, such as comments and formatting.

Excel 2016
One of the most welcome additions to Excel is that it now recognizes most Windows keyboard shortcuts. But don’t worry — there’s no need to abandon the old Mac Excel shortcuts, because it recognizes them as well. Being a long-time Windows Excel user, I found this saved me a great deal of time on the Mac. It was like coming home.

excel mac
Excel now comes with new data analysis and charting features.

Spreadsheet jockeys will be pleased that Excel has been powered with many of the features from the Windows version, such as adding slicers to pivot tables. With slicers, you create buttons that make it easy to filter data in a pivot table report, with no need to resort to drop-down lists. A number of new statistical functions have also been added, such as moving averages and
exponential smoothing.

Less importantly, when you click on a cell, your cursor essentially glides over to it in an animated way, like it does on the Windows 2013 version of Excel. Will this change your life? Far from it. But I found it just the slightest bit entertaining, and I, for one, can use all the entertainment I can get when I’m using a spreadsheet.

Not everything is rosy in this new version of Excel, though. You can’t build pivot charts in Excel, which is unfortunate, because they’re a great way to present complex information at a glance, and are useful when creating dashboards meant to display a great deal of data at once.

PowerPoint 2016

PowerPoint has gotten the same kind of collaboration features as Word and suffers from the same limitation — it’s not true real-time collaboration because changes don’t show up until the person you’re collaborating with saves them.

powerpoint mac
The new Presenter view may be PowerPoint’s best new feature.

On the plus side, I found the new Presenter view an excellent addition. With it, while you’re projecting a presentation, your audience will see the current slide, while you’ll also see your notes, the next slide and a timer. That makes it easy to read from your notes and know what’s coming next when giving your presentation.

A new animations pane is useful for creating and previewing animations in your presentations. I found it exceptionally useful because it let me control pretty much everything about animations in slides, including customizing the duration of the animation, whether to play sound along with it, and a number of effects options. And it’s also great for adding multiple animations to a slide, because you can use the pane to easily change the order of the animations, delete animations and add news ones.

Outlook 2016
If you feel that Apple Mail is purgatory, Outlook 2016 will be a must-have.

As with the other applications in Office 2016, Outlook has gotten a visual makeover to make it look and work more like its Windows counterpart. Clutter has been reduced, although it still relies on a menu above the ribbon for many tasks.

Outlook has a new look, but more important may be performance enhancements under the hood.

Unread messages now are denoted by a blue vertical bar rather than by bold text, making them stand out much more. As a result, I found it much easier to scan unread mail in my inbox. Links to your calendar, notes, contacts and tasks are no longer buried underneath the mailboxes on the left-hand pane, but instead appear in big type at the very bottom of the screen. They’re now
impossible to miss.

Performance has been considerably improved. Messages appear instantly, search is quick and I experienced no lags or delays. Microsoft says that’s because it’s switched from its previous proprietary database to SQLite. The company also says this makes Outlook’s database not just faster, but less liable to crashes and corruptions.

You receive messages faster on an Exchange account not just because of the new database, but because in the old Outlook for the Mac, Exchange Web Services polled the mail server for new messages approximately only once a minute. Outlook 2016 has done away with that delay — it now polls continually.

That’s not to say all is well with this new version of Outlook. You can’t export mail, tasks, contacts, notes, and calendars directly from Outlook. Because there’s no support for CalDAV or CardDav, you can’t sync your contacts or calendars with other programs and platforms, including Outlook.com. And because Outlook supports Apple’s sandbox, you can’t run local anti-spam products in Outlook 2016 with Exchange. Instead, you have to use an Exchange server-based anti-spam product from Microsoft.

There are currently two versions of Office 2016 for Mac available, both as part of the subscription-based Office 365 line. Office 365 Home costs $9.99 per month and covers up to five Windows PCs or Macs along with five tablets and five phones; Office 365 Personal costs $6.99 per month and covers one Windows PC or Mac, one tablet and one phone. There are also several business and enterprise plans available.

When the standalone version of Office 2016 for Mac is released later this month, it will be essentially the same suite as the Office 365 version, with two differences: The standalone version won’t include either a free 1TB of OneDrive space or 60 minutes a month of free Skype calling, both of which come with Office 365. Aside from that, though, the suites will be identical.

Bottom line

With this version of Office, the Mac is no longer the poor stepchild in the Office world. All versions of Office, whether on a Windows PC or a Mac, look and work alike, and also resemble the Office you experience on the Web and on tablets.

This is good news for Mac users, because the new interface and features, as well as the improved performance of Outlook, make it a considerably better suite. And it should also mean that Office on the Mac will no longer trail behind its Windows counterpart, and will be updated on a similar schedule. In fact, the final Mac version of Office 2016 was released before the Windows version, which won’t be available until later in September.

But there’s something even more important than the release schedule about this latest iteration of Office for the Mac: It’s a winner. Any Mac user looking for an office suite should seriously consider getting it.



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Wi-Fi blocking debate far from over

$750K fine levied against Smart City by FCC for WiFi blocking has WLAN pros, vendors talking again

Following the FCC’s warning in January that it would no longer tolerate the Marriotts of the world blocking visitors’ WiFi hotspots, I set a reminder on my calendar to revisit the topic six months later. After all, the issue of WiFi blocking sparked strong reactions from IT pros, end users and vendors of wireless LAN products early in the year, and I figured it wasn’t over yet.

So I started by making an inquiry directly to Marriott Global CIO Bruce Hoffmeister, who foisted me on to a company spokesman, who “respectfully declined” to connect me with anyone for an update on how Marriott is now dealing with perceived threats to its network. He simply directed me back to Marriott’s statement from January that it would behave itself, no doubt hoping the hotel chain could further distance itself from the $600K fine that the FCC hit it with, as well as the rest of the bad publicity. I also inquired at the FCC, which in Marriott-like fashion, referred me back to the agency’s last statement on the matter from January, and in a follow up, said it can’t comment on whether any new investigations are underway. Most of the WLAN vendors and administrators were pretty quiet, too when I made the rounds a few weeks back.

While all this was demoralizing, my intuition about this story still having legs was validated last week (while I was on vacation, of course) when the FCC slapped an Internet service provider called Smart City with a $750,000 fine for pulling a Marriott at several locations and blocking personal WiFi hotspots. Smart City was found not be protecting its network against any specific security threat, but rather, trying to force people to pay for its Internet service.

So despite Marriott’s best efforts, the hotel chain’s past shenanigans were dredged up again in coverage of the Smart City story. Because now all of a sudden, everyone’s talking again.

One vendor spokesman expressed surprise that the FCC had once again levied a big fine on a WiFi blocker: “Trying to control and govern the unlicensed spectrum is a tall order, especially in venues and public areas.”

One university network architect, Lee Badman, published an open letter to the FCC on his blog following the FCC’s Smart City order in which he says “as a WLAN professional I implore you to recognize that these actions are creating significant amounts of confusion for enterprise Wi-Fi environments and those of us who keep them operational for the millions of business clients that use them every day.” He goes on to list 5 big questions hanging over the WLAN space in the wake of the latest FCC ruling on WiFi blocking.

Among the things Badman’s peers are worried about or are wondering about:

*Does using frequency blocking material in building design constitute WiFi blocking in a passive way?

*Does getting end users to agree to acceptable use policies (AUPs) protect WLAN operators from getting busted for WiFi blocking?

*How can the de-auth/mitigation tools sold by WLAN vendors be used legally?

Some users would also like to see WLAN vendors band together and get clearer answers about what customers can and can’t do in terms of WiFi security and management. And in fact, some vendors have been working at least in the hospitality industry to come up with best practices for successful WiFi deployments. The Hotel Technology Next Generation association, which includes Marriott among its members, issued a WiFi roadmap in April, that while only touching on the topic of blocking tools, looks like it has some potential to help organizations stay on the right side of the law. (Meanwhile, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a hospitality industry group that sided with Marriott’s right to block users of personal Wi-Fi hotspots, claims to have formed a Cybersecurity Task Force but did not reply to my inquiries earlier this month about whether the task force has in fact been formed or accomplished anything yet.)

Apple’s deal with Cisco will lay out a red carpet for critical iOS apps
Buckley suggests that the FCC should allow Wi-Fi blocking at least in the interim, and then “re-open the discussion on the use of this technology and clarify when its use is practical and acceptable. Wi-Fi vendors also need to collaborate to come up with better security mechanisms in public Wi-Fi networks.” He acknowledges that the topic is complicated given that we’re talking about unlicensed spectrum that’s free for anyone to use.

Xirrus is especially passionate about K-12 schools being able to use WiFi blocking (rogue AP protection/mitigation) to protect students from accessing unfiltered Internet content – protections that the schools have put in place to comply with federal laws designed to safeguard children. Though Buckley says this could also apply to public access Wi-Fi environments, such as cafes, airports and public libraries where you don’t want people potentially “displaying illicit content on their devices” in full view of others.

Buckley stresses that one reason public WLAN operators need to be able to have security tools such as WiFi blocking at their disposal is because such networks can attract schemers who set up bogus hotspots to lure unsuspecting users, say those in a hotel lobby or convention center, to share sensitive personal information. One question then becomes whether a hotel not blocking WiFi could get sued for a guest getting phished after logging onto what he or she thought was the hotel’s network.

While Buckley would very much like to see further dialogue with the FCC take place, Xirrus isn’t waiting around for that to happen either. He says that in a few weeks the company is coming out with technology that will greatly bolster public WLAN network security. “WiFi blocking is another tool that can be used to protect users, but let’s not forget that security is all about defense in depth. You can’t rely on just one layer.”


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BitTorrent patches flaw that could amplify distributed denial-of-service attacks

Attackers could use the vulnerability to force BitTorrent applications to send malicious traffic

BitTorrent fixed a vulnerability that would have allowed attackers to hijack BitTorrent applications — used by hundreds of millions of users — in order to amplify distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

The vulnerability was located in libuTP, a reference implementation of the Micro Transport Protocol (uTP) that’s used by many popular BitTorrent clients including uTorrent, Vuze, Transmission and the BitTorrent mainline client.

The flaw was disclosed earlier this month in a paper presented at the 9th USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies by four researchers from City University London, Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences in Friedberg, Germany and cloud networking firm PLUMgrid.

DDoS amplification is an increasingly popular technique among attackers and can generate very large traffic volumes. It involves sending rogue requests to a large number of servers that appear to originate from the IP (Internet Protocol) address of a target chosen by attackers. This tricks those servers into sending their responses to the spoofed IP address instead of the original sender, flooding the victim with data packets.

The technique has the effect of hiding the source of the original traffic, which is known as reflection, but can also significantly amplify it if the generated responses are larger in size than the requests that triggered them.

This type of attack typically affects protocols that rely on the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) for data transmission, because UDP does not perform source address validation. In their paper, the four researchers showed that uTP is one such protocol.

They showed that an attacker could send a connection request with a spoofed address to a BitTorrent client, forcing it to send an acknowledgement (ACK) packet to the victim. The attacker could then send a second request with the same spoofed address and a random ACK number to initiate a BitTorrent handshake.

The BitTorrent client would accept this second request as well and would send a handshake response to the victim. However, since the victim would not expect the packet, it wouldn’t respond back, forcing the BitTorrent client to resend the data up to four times, amplifying the traffic that the attackers can generate.

In order to fix the issue, BitTorrent, the company that maintains libuTP, modified the library so that it properly verifies the ACK number accompanying the second request. If it doesn’t match the one sent to the victim in the first packet, it will drop the connection.

The change does not prevent DDoS reflection but kills the amplification effect.

It would be fairly difficult for an attacker to guess the acknowledgement number for a sufficiently large number of reflectors, a BitTorrent engineer said in a blog post Thursday that explains the fix in detail.

The latest versions of uTorrent, BitTorrent mainline and BitTorrent Sync, which are developed by the company, have included the fix since Aug. 4.

The change does not affect backwards compatibility with older versions of those applications nor with third-party BitTorrent clients that use libuTP, a BitTorrent engineer said via email. “Nonetheless, we encourage other developers to ensure their implementations properly enforce acknowledgment number sequencing.”

Other protocols designed by the company that rely on libuTP, like the Message Stream Encryption (MSE), are also protected.


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IDF 2015’s coolest demos

IDF 2015’s coolest demos
Every year at the Intel Developer Forum Intel and its partners showcase the latest technology with some outstanding exhibits. These are the best of what we found.

The best of Intel Developer Forum 2015
Each year, Intel holds its Developer Forum to lead the PC industry into the direction Intel wants it to go: powerful new PCs, connected devices, touchscreens, and the like.

Well, a bunch of stale PowerPoint foils won’t do the job. So Intel and its partners seed IDF with some amazing, awe-inspiring demos, all in a bid to get the developer community behind this year’s technological focus. What sort of demos, you ask? We have some of the best in the following pages.

This little beauty graced Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich’s keynote, along with its smaller cousins right behind it. Intel believes its future is in the Internet of Things, and this spider robot is powered by embedded Intel chips.

Intel’s WiGig “wire-free future”
Part of Intel’s Skylake vision is a “wire-free” PC: connected by Wi-Fi, charged by Rezence wireless charging, with images sent to a monitor either by WiGig or WiDi.

What’s the difference? What can WiGig do that WiDi can’t?
In Intel’s world, WiDi is designed for the living room, while WiGig is a high-bandwidth connection for your office. In a demonstration, a Dell notebook seamlessly connected to a WiGig dongle attached to an HP NUC. The connection held while the executive walked the notebook walked the notebook about 40 feet away. When he returned, the notebook seamlessly reconnected.

Rezence Wireless Power
What do the guts of a Rezence wireless charging pad look like? Well, this.

Unlike Qi, Intel says that a Rezence pad can be mounted underneath a desk, transmitting power through an inch or two of wood. While you don’t have to align a notebook perfectly to charge it, you do have to get it pretty close, at least according to the demo I saw.

Intel WiDi
Not to be outdone, Intel also had a Wireless Display (WiDi) exhibit in its booth, with a tablet running a custom app that the company developed. Next year, WiDi will support 4K via Miracast.

The problem with WiDi has been latency—meaning that it works best with streaming video. It’s not perfect; there still were a few hiccups in places. But unlike past generations, the new WiDi technology compresses the video on the tablet, then sends it over the wireless link. The demonstration also took place on a show floor, which isn’t an ideal place to demonstrate new technology.

Fallout PC
During Intel’s gaming PC session, the company presented a showcase of custom case designs, all housing a Skylake CPU inside. This Fallout-themed mod was one of our favorites.

Lego PC
Computer builder Mike Schropp built this PC entirely out of Legos—not the only PC modder at IDF to attempt this, by the way.

Compact PC
Intel had a collection of small, compact PCs in its booth, most using passive cooling in place of a fan. Note the massive antennas emerging from the back, to provide better wireless reception.

A Nexus Q?
Is this the Google Nexus Q, back from the dead? Nope! Just another compact PC.

Food Network Gesture Recipes
Who knew? If you visit the Food Network’s Web site, which has been optimized for the Intel RealSense camera, you can scroll hands-free without needing to touch the screen. That’s great when your hands are all gloppy after mashing avocados.

(Be warned, howvever—you have to download a massive SDK package to enable this on your PC.)

Core i7 Extreme Edition
It wouldn’t be an Intel Developer Forum without a Core i7 Extreme Edition playing a 4K version of the indie hit, Rocket League.

Intel True Key
One of the benefits of buying a PC with an Intel RealSense camera installed (to enable Windows Hello) is that you can sign up for Intel True Key, a free service from Intel’s McAfee security division. Like Hello, True Key lets you unlock your PC using facial recognition.

Both Windows Hello and True Key also use your face as your identification around the Web. But Hello’s related Passport technology doesn’t send a password to sites like Facebook; True Key does. Or, to be more specific, True Key uses a password generator to output a complex password to your bank or Web site, then sends it after your facial identification gives it the go-ahead.

Intel True Key 2
If you don’t regularly use the computer or tablet, True Key will ask you for a second form of authentication, sending you a code to your phone to serve as an additional means of security.

Thunderbolt 3
For the first time, the Thunderbolt technology finally seems useful. Not only does it run at a whopping 40Gbps, but it will share a connector with USB-C. Look for USB-C/Thunderbot to share connectors on more PCs going forward.

Aleutia Copper-Coated PC
Aleutia manufactures fanless PCs, the latest of which is shown here. And yes, that copper-looking core is indeed copper, an excellent thermal conductor that, incidentally, is selling for its lowest price in ten years. These fanless PCs are being sent to Africa, where they’re designed to serve as rugged low-cost PCs for the Third World.

Skylake Tower
Intel also had a pair of desktop systems running Skylake, including this NZXT PC with 6th-generation Core i7 inside, on top of an ASRock Z170 Extreme 7+ motherboard.

Skylake Data
Right next to the tower was a similar Skylake system, but running the CPU-Z freeware utility, to show what was inside.

Intel RealSense smart mirror
Intel had several exhibits showing off the power of its RealSense camera, including this “smart mirror” that projected an overlay over the image of the viewer.

Savioke RealSense Robot
This robot from Savioke is designed to roam through a hotel or a conference center, dodging crowds in its quest to bring a user a cold drink, a toothbrush, or some other sundry object that it can put in its hopper. It uses the Intel RealSense camera to navigate.

It’s a Shark Camera!
Because it makes sense to put a camera in an inflatable, fan-propelled shark. Naturally.

Lego Future Lab, and RealSense
The Lego Future Lab showed off a cool prototype game where a user could scan in some household objects, then the software would “Lego-ify” them. A minifig could then roam around….this cat statue thing.

Miniature Battlebots
No, there weren’t any chopping blades or flamethrowers. But if you wanted to try your hand at flipping a rival robot over, this was the place to come.

Intel Greenhouse
In Intel’s world of the Internet of Things, an ecosystem of sensors connects to Intel’s Curie embedded processor. In this case, sensors inside the greenhouse help determine whether the fan needs to run to cool the interior.

Gah! More Intel spiderbots!
One of Brian Krzanich’s more esoteric powers is the ability to contol spiders—robot spiders, that is. During the keynote, he wore a special bracelet that the spiders were keyed to—when Krzanich lifted his arm, the spiders responded. These little guys were crawling around a special pen in the lobby.

Skylake supports 12K! (’cause 4K x 3 = 12K right?)
Intel’s new Skylake processor takes the multipanel display properties to new heights. What you’re seeing here is three 4K displays running off a single Core i7-6700K chip. The two UHD 4K on the left are being off of DisplayPort 1.2 while the UDH 4K panel on the right is running on HDMI 1.4 at 30Hz. Skylake is capable of driving all three streams at 60Hz, but the motherboard the demo was running on didn’t have the ports to support it. And, no it’s not really technically 12K but that’s what everyone will call it.

USB-C in the house
It’s true, it’ll soon be time to junk all those micro-USB cables. This nifty AFT card reader is USB-C based and has two USB 3 ports on front too.

Skylake can push 4K raw video, too…
Skylake features fixed function 4K procesing support and in this demo, a Core i7-6700K is playing a 4K RAW video file from a Canon camera without dropping frames and with minimal CPU load.

Image courtesy Gordon Mah Ung
We shot the computer’s task manager as it played a 4K resolution RAW video on Intel’s new Skylake Core i7-6700K CPU. CPU utiliziation was usually 5 to 7 percent or lower. By comparison, a machine next to it playing the same video without using the new Skylake 4K fixed function units to help continually dropped frames, and used 70 to 80 percent of the CPU cycles just to play the file. Another interesting thing to note: This 4K RAW video file is pushing nearly 500MB/s off the SSD. That’s a lot of data being read.

RealSense in a phone!?
Already in super thin tablets, Intel showed off a reference design phone with a RealSense camera integrated into it. The phone shown here is being used to scan some 3D objects…

Why buy toys when you can scan them?
…and here’s the finished product. After moving the phone around the toys and scanning them with the RealSense camera, the phone was able to create a 3D scene that could be rotated and zoomed in and out.

Need for speed?
AFTech’s Blackb1rd lets you run two standard SATA drives in RAID over its USB 3.1 USB-C connection. By our estimates, that’ll use all of USB 3.1’s 10Gbps throughput if the controller in this cabinet and the motherboard can hit the full speed. In other words, we need more speed already. Thunderbolt 3, perhaps?

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Silicon Valley’s ‘pressure cooker:’ Thrive or get out

Spotlight may be on Amazon, but tech jobs are high profit and high stress

It’s true. People working in Silicon Valley may cry at their desks, may be expected to respond to emails in the middle of the night and be in the office when they’d rather be sick in bed.

But that’s the price employees pay to work for some of the most successful and innovative tech companies in the world, according to industry analysts.

“It’s a pressure cooker for tech workers,” said Bill Reynolds, research director for Foote Partners LLC, an IT workforce research firm. “But for every disgruntled employee, someone will tell you it’s fine. This is the ticket to working in this area and they’re willing to pay it.”

The tech industry has been like this for years, he added.
Employees are either Type A personalities who thrive on the pressure, would rather focus on a project than get a full night’s sleep and don’t mind pushing or being pushed.

If that’s not who they are, they should get another job and probably in another industry.

“A lot of tech companies failed, and the ones that made it, made it based on a driven culture. No one made it working 9 to 5,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an executive outplacement firm. “Silicon Valley has been the vanguard of this type of work culture. It can get out of control. It can be too much and people can burn out. But it’s who these companies are.”

Work culture at tech companies, specifically at Amazon, hit the spotlight earlier this week when the New York Times ran a story on the online retailer and what it called its “bruising workplace.”

The story talked about employees crying at their desks, working 80-plus-hour weeks and being expected to work when they’re not well or after a family tragedy.

“At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high,” the article noted.

In response, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos sent a memo to employees saying he didn’t recognize the company described in the Times article.

“The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day,” Bezos wrote. “More broadly, I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market.”

Bezos hasn’t been the only one at Amazon to respond. Nick Ciubotariu, head of Infrastructure development at Amazon.com, wrote a piece on LinkedIn, taking on the Times article.

“During my 18 months at Amazon, I’ve never worked a single weekend when I didn’t want to. No one tells me to work nights,” he wrote. “We work hard, and have fun. We have Nerf wars, almost daily, that often get a bit out of hand. We go out after work. We have ‘Fun Fridays.’ We banter, argue, play video games and Foosball. And we’re vocal about our employee happiness.”

Amazon has high expectations of its workers because it’s one of the largest and most successful companies in the world, according to industry analysts.

The company, which started as an online book store, now sells everything from cosmetics to bicycles and toasters. With a valuation of $250 billion, Amazon even surpassed mega retailer Walmart this summer as the biggest retailer in the U.S.

With that kind of success comes a lot of pressure to stay on top and to come up with new, innovative ways to keep customers happy.

That kind of challenge can lead to a stressful workplace where employees are called on to work long hours and to outwork competitors’ own employees.

It’s just the way of the beast, according to Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates Inc., a management consulting firm.

“If you go to work for a high-powered company where you have a chance of being a millionaire in a few years, you are going to work 70 to 80 hours a week,” he said. “You are going to have to be right all the time and you are going to be under a lot of stress. Your regular Joe is really going to struggle there.”

This kind of work stress isn’t relegated to Amazon alone. Far from it, Janulaitis said.

“I think it’s fairly widespread in any tech company that is successful,” he noted. “It’s just a very stressful environment. You’re dealing with a lot of money and a lot of Type A personalities who want to get things done. If you’re not a certain type of person, you’re not going to make it. It’s much like the Wild West. They have their own rules.”

Of course, tech companies, whether Amazon, Google, Apple or Facebook, are known to work people hard, going back to the days when IBM was launching its first PCs and Microsoft was making its Office software ubiquitous around the world.

However, tech companies also are known for giving their employees perks that people working in other industries only dream of.

Google, for instance, has world-class chefs cooking free food for its employees, while also setting up nap pods, meditation classes and sandy volleyball courts.

Netflix recently made global headlines for offering mothers and fathers unlimited time off for up to a year after the birth or adoption of a child.

It’s the yin and yang of Silicon Valley, said Megan Slabinski, district president of Robert Half Technology, a human resources consulting firm.

“All those perks – the ping pong tables, the free snacks, the free day care — that started in the tech industry come with the job because the job is so demanding,” she said. “There’s a level of demand in the tech industry that translates to the work environment.”

When asked if Amazon is any harder on its employees than other major tech companies, Slabinski laughed.

“Amazon isn’t different culturally from other IT companies,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 16 years. You see the good, the bad and the ugly. If you are working for tech companies, the expectation is you are going to work really hard. This is bleeding-edge technology, and the trade-off is there’s less work-life balance. The people who thrive in this industry, thrive on being on the bleeding edge. If you can’t take it, you go into another industry.”

Janulaitis noted that top-tier employees are always chased by other companies, but middle-tier workers – those who are doing a good job but might not be the brightest stars of the workforce – are hunkering down and staying put.

Fears of a still jittery job market have convinced a lot of people to keep their heads down, put up with whatever their managers ask of them and continue to be able to pay their mortgages, especially if they live in pricey Silicon Valley.

That, said Janulaitis, makes companies more apt to ask even more from their employees, who know they’re likely stuck where they are for now.

“Once the job market changes, turnover will increase significantly in the IT field,” he said.

Like stock traders working under extreme pressure on Wall Street or medical interns working 36-hour shifts, the tech industry is a high-stress environment – one that’s not suited to every worker.

“If you can’t live with that pressure, you should go somewhere else,” said Reynolds. “For people in Silicon Valley, it’s who they are. It’s the kind of person they are.”


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Top 10 technology schools

Interested in going to one of the best colleges or universities to study technology? Here are the top 10 schools known for their computer science and engineering programs.

Top technology schools
Every year, Money releases its rankings of every college and university in the U.S., and not surprisingly, a number of those top schools are leaders in the tech space. Here are the top 10 technology schools, according to Money’s most recent survey of the best colleges in America.

Stanford University
First on the list for not only technology colleges, but all colleges, Stanford University has an impressive 96 percent graduation rate. The average price for a degree is $178,731 and students earn, on average, $64,400 per year upon graduation. Stanford’s global engineering program allows its 4,850 students to travel around the globe while studying engineering. There are nine departments in the engineering program: aeronautics and astronautics, bioengineering, chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, management science and engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located in Cambridge, Mass., is the second best technology school in the country, with a 93 percent graduation rate. The average net price of a degree comes in at a $166,855, but students can expect an average starting salary of $72,500 per year after graduating. As one of the top engineering schools, it’s ranked number 1 for chemical, aerospace/aeronautical, computer and electrical engineering. The top employers for the 57 percent of graduates that enter the workforce immediately include companies like Google, Amazon, Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil. Another 32 percent of students, however, go on to pursue a higher degree.

California Institute of Technology
Located in Pasadena, Calif, the California Institute of Technology has a graduation rate of 93 percent. The average cost of a degree is $186,122, and students earn an average starting salary of $72,300. CalTech, as it’s often called, has departments in aerospace, applied physics and materials studies, computing and mathematical sciences, electrical engineering, environmental science and engineering, mechanical and civil engineering, and medical engineering. The prestigious college is also home to 31 recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Harvey Mudd College
Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., has a strong technology program, putting it at number 4 on the list of top technology schools. The cost of tuition is also one of the highest on this list, at $196,551 for a degree. Graduates of Harvey Mudd earn an average of $76,400 early on in their careers and the graduation rate is 91 percent. The engineering program at Harvey Mudd College focuses on helping students apply their skills to real world situations. Students can get professional experience and help solve design problems outside of the classroom through an engineering clinic.

Harvard University
Harvard University, located in Cambridge, Mass., technically ties with Harvey Mudd for top technology schools, and top overall colleges. The graduation rate is 97 percent and the average price of a degree is $187, 763 while graduates earn an average annual salary of $60,000 when starting their careers. In the Jon A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard, which goes back as far as 1847, undergraduate students can study applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, engineering sciences and mechanical engineering.

University of California at Berkeley
The University of California at Berkeley has a graduation rate of 91 percent, and students can get a degree for around $133,549. After graduation, the average salary for students starting out their careers is $58,300 per year. The electrical engineering and computer science division of the University of California at Berkeley has around 2,000 undergraduate students and is the largest department within the university.

University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania, located in Philadelphia, Penn., has a graduation rate of 96 percent and the average cost of a degree is $194,148. Students graduating from Penn and starting out their careers earn an average annual starting salary of $59,200. The Penn engineering department focuses on computer and information science. Students can study computer science, computer engineering, digital media design, networked and social systems engineering, computer science, computational biology as well as computer and cognitive science.

Rice University
Located in Houston, Rice University has a graduation rate of 91 percent and the average cost of a degree is $157,824. Upon graduation, the average starting salary for students comes in at $61,200 per year. Rice University has a Department of Computer Science where students can work in faculty research programs and describes the perfect computer science student as a “mathematician seeking adventure,” a quote from system architect Bob Barton. In the electrical and computer engineering department, students can prepare for a career in oil and gas, wearables, entertainment, renewable energy, gaming, healthcare, space industry, security and aviation.

Brigham Young University-Provo
Brigham Young University-Provo, located in Provo, Utah, has a graduation rate of 78 percent, but students won’t have as many loans as other colleges on this list. The average price of a degree is a moderate $80,988 and the average starting salary for graduates is around $51,600 per year. Brigham Young University-Provo offers degrees in electrical engineering, computer engineering and computer science. With a wide array of programs to choose from in each degree, Brigham Young University-Provo boasts a rigorous course load with an emphasis on gaining practical skills for the workforce.

Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas, is home to Texas A&M University where 79 percent of students graduate and the average cost of a degree is $84,732. Students can expect to earn an average starting salary of $54,000 per year after graduation. The Texas A&M computer science and engineering programs boasts an “open, accepting, and compassionate community that encourages the exploration of ideas.” Students should expect to leave the program prepared to help solve real-world challenges in the technology industry through applied research.


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How to prepare for and respond to a cyber attack

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for new ways to bypass security measures. In a survey conducted by the SANS Institute on the behalf of Guidance Software, 56% of respondents assumed they have been breached or will be soon, compared with 47% last year.

Assistant United States Attorney and Cybercrime Coordinator with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Delaware Ed McAndrew, and Guidance Software Director of Security Anthony Di Bello, have compiled best practices for preparing and responding to a cyber attack and working with law enforcement:

* Have an incident response plan – Creating established and actionable plans and procedures for managing and responding to a cyber intrusion can help organizations limit the damage to their computer networks and minimize work stoppage. It also helps law enforcement locate and apprehend the perpetrators.

* Identify key assets – It may be cost prohibitive to protect the entire enterprise. Before creating a cyber incident plan, an organization should determine which of its data, assets and services warrant the most protection. The Cybersecurity Framework produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides excellent guidance on risk management planning and policies and merits consideration.

* Make an initial assessment of the threat – Once an attack or breach is identified, it’s critical to assess the nature and scope of the incident. It is also important to determine whether the incident was a malicious act or a technological glitch. The nature of the incident will determine what kind of assistance the organization will need and what type of damage and remedial efforts may be required.

* Engage with law enforcement before an attack – Having a pre-existing relationship with federal law enforcement officials can help facilitate any interaction relating to a breach. It will also help establish a trusted relationship that cultivates bi-directional information sharing that is beneficial to both the organization and law enforcement.

* Have a post-attack plan of action – Establish procedures addressing what steps you need to take after an attack. This includes identifying who is responsible for different elements of an organization’s cyber incident response, having the ability to contact critical personnel at all times, knowing what mission critical data, networks or services should be prioritized for the greatest protection and how to preserve data related to the incident in a forensically sound manner.

* Capture the extent of the damage – Ideally, the victim of a cyber attack will make a forensic image of the affected computers as soon as the incident is detected. Doing so preserves a record of the system for analysis and potentially for use as evidence at a trial. Organizations should restrict access to these materials in order to maintain the integrity of the copy’s authenticity. Safeguard these materials from unidentified malicious insiders and establish a chain of custody.

* Take steps to minimize additional damage – To prevent an attack from spreading, you must take steps to stop ongoing traffic caused by the perpetrator. Preventative measures include: rerouting network traffic, filtering or blocking a Distributed Denial of Service attack or isolating all or parts of the compromised network.

* Keep detailed records – Take immediate steps to preserve relevant existing logs. All personnel participating in the incident response should keep an ongoing, written record of the steps taken to respond to and mitigate an incident and any costs incurred as a result of the attack. They should record all incident-related communications, the identity of the systems, accounts, services, data and network affected by the incident and information relating to the amount and type of damage inflicted.

* Notify law enforcement – Many companies have been reluctant to contact law enforcement following a cyber incident due to concerns that a criminal investigation might disrupt their business. However, the FBI and U.S. Secret Service cause as little disruption to an organization’s normal operations as possible. These agencies will also attempt to coordinate statements to the news media concerning the incident, ensuring that information harmful to a company’s interests are not disclosed.

* Work with law enforcement to contact other potential victims – Contacting other potential victims through law enforcement is preferable to contacting them directly. Doing so protects the initial victim from potentially unnecessary exposure and allows law enforcement to conduct further investigations, which may uncover additional victims.

* Stay informed about threats – An organization’s awareness of new or commonly exploited vulnerabilities can help it prioritize its security measures. There are organizations that share real-time intelligence on threats. For example, Information Sharing and Analysis Centers, which analyze cyber threat information, have been created in each sector of the critical infrastructure. Some centers also provide cybersecurity services.

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8 free sites that teach you how to program

8 free sites that teach you how to program

Want to learn to code, but aren’t interested in paying pricey fees? Here are eight great websites that will teach you how to program — on your own time, from the comfort of your own home and for free.

Free sites that teach you how to program
If you’re interested in coding or want to make a career change, you don’t need to enroll in an expensive undergraduate or graduate program. You can learn for free, on your own time and from the comfort of your home.

It’s a great opportunity to get into a new line of work that has an increasing demand. To help get you started on your programming journey, we’ve compiled this list of websites where you can learn to code for free.

Code Academy
Developed in 2011, the main focus of Code Academy is to teach you how to code so that you can transform your career. It features a number of success stories from individuals who knew little to nothing about coding and went on to have fruitful careers as programmers. Code Academy covers a lot of ground, including how to make interactive websites. You can take courses in Rails, Angularjs, Rails Auth, The Command Line, HTML & CSS, JavaScript, iQuery, PHP, Python and Ruby. They are constantly adding new programs as well, so if nothing piques your interest now, you can always check back in a few months to see what they have added to their course load.

The courses on Code Academy are free and it has become a well-known and respected resource for anyone yearning to learn how to code. You can get started by creating a free account and browsing the tutorials, forums and sandboxes, where you can test out your code. On the flip side, if you are an expert in a particular language, you can actually publish your own course on the website for others to learn.

Kahn academy
Kahn Academy offers more than just programming – it’s tagline is, “you can learn anything.” In addition to math, science, history, art and economics, just to name a few, you can also learn computer programming. It’s taken seriously in the education world, with institutions such as NASA and MIT partnering to bring more courses to Khan Academy.

Once you select a course, it guides you through a series of exercises, videos, games and more to help you master the skills you need. The computer programing course includes drawing and animation, SQL, HTML/CSS, JavaScript and more. It’s a completely free service, with courses in about 40 different languages. The creators state that it will always remain free, ad-free, and not-for-profit.

TheCodePlayer might be better-suited for those who have at least a basic knowledge of coding, but it offers a unique option for learning HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. You can log on and see someone make a program from scratch, and watch as they work through the process themselves. It’s a different tactic compared to similar sites that offer more traditional courses with tutorials, exercises and videos.

Once you choose a walkthrough, you can toggle the settings to make it go faster, or slower depending on your needs. You can also pause the tutorials, as well as toggle between HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. Most of the tutorials are free, and if you sign up with your email, you can unlock more walkthroughs and tutorials on the site.

Code School Website
Code School wants you to “learn to code by doing,” which means you will be thrown into hands-on exercises. It’s great for anyone who learns best by doing — and making mistakes — rather than learning the content and then trying to apply it to real world situations. There are different “paths” you can choose which includes Ruby Path, JavaScript Path, HTML/CSS Path, iOS Path and Git Path. There is also an Electives Path, which focuses more on development strategies.

The courses are meant to be fun and are designed similar to a game with a storyline, to help keep you invested in the coursework. The introductory courses are typically free, but to go beyond the free courses, you will need to opt into a monthly subscription fee of $29, or a yearly fee of $290.

HTML5 Rocks
HTML5 Rocks is a project from Google, so if you want to learn HTML5 from the kings of technology, this might be the option for you. The new standard in Web development, HTML5, is a valuable language to add to your coding repertoire. Whether your focus is mobile, gaming or business, there is a course that will suit your needs on HTML5 Rocks.

You can search through tutorials, check out the latest additions and browse through a number of resources to help you get started. The resources section includes books, demos, tutorials, videos and more to enhance your learning experience. The site is free, which means no subscription fees or locked content, so you can get started immediately.

Programmr is another great resource if you learn best by doing. While beginners can head to Programmr to learn, experienced and seasoned programmers can check out Programmr to practice their skills and enter competitions. The site offers coding simulators, so you can write your code and test mobile, databases, Web and rich media apps right in your browser.

The courses on Programmr take you through it step-by-step with hands on coding practice, and the best part, it’s free. It’s a great option for those who have a basic knowledge of different programming languages, but want to hone their skills even further or pick up a new language. You can even get certified as a specialist in Java, C++, C#, Python and PHP through your progress in Programmr courses.

Code Avengers
If you want to build Web pages, apps or games, Code Avengers is a great resource to learn the skills you need. Designed for beginners, or those with some limited experience, each course takes only 12 hours to complete. As you learn, you can create apps, games and even websites, taking you beyond simply reading information, but using your new skills in practical applications.

The introduction courses are all free, but to go beyond the intro, you will have to pay a fee. Level 1 courses are $29, which is the next step from the introduction level, and Level 2 courses are $39, but “lifetime access” to all seven courses is a one-time fee of $146. You can give the free introduction a shot to see if you’re interested in learning that language, with no strings attached. Courses include JavaScript, HTML5 & CSS3, and Python 3.

MIT Open Courseware
Want an MIT education, without all the loans? You can get pretty close with MIT Open Courseware, a free educational service from the Cambridge, Mass-based university. The university recently decided to make its course materials available online so that anyone can take part in the classes, even if they can’t go to the university. There are materials from 2,260 courses and serves educators, students, and self-learners alike.

You can search courses by topic, and you’ll find programming languages under Computer Science sub-topic within the Engineering topic. Scroll through the undergraduate and graduate course offerings and you’ll find a courses on C++, Java, graphics, animation, computer science fundamentals and much more.

W3 Schools
W3 Schools is one of the most popular sites for Web developers, pulling in 40 million visits a month. They also offer a YouTube channel where you can view different videos on CSS; you can even ask questions in the comments, and chances are they will answer you. W3 Schools focuses on HTML/CSS, JavaScript, HTML Graphics, Server Side, Web Building and XML Tutorials. Everything you could want to know about coding a website is most likely on W3 Schools. It’s a great resource for newbies as well as veterans looking to brush up on their skills.

Within tutorials, you can also find code examples that you can manipulate and test in the browser to see if you have the right commands in place. The site is free and it’s easy to navigate to find the content you’re looking for. There is also a W3Schools Certification Program that lets you study in your own time and you can complete the program in a matter of a few weeks. Certificates include HTML, HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Bootstrap and XML. Each certificate will cost you $95.


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